Emperor Taishō

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Emperor Taishō
Emperor Taishō (cropped).jpg
Formal portrait, 1912
Emperor of Japan
Reign30 July 1912 – 25 December 1926
Enthronement10 November 1915
RegentHirohito (1921–1926)
Prime ministers
BornYoshihito (嘉仁)
(1879-08-31)31 August 1879
Tōgū Palace, Akasaka, Tokyo, Empire of Japan
Died25 December 1926(1926-12-25) (aged 47)
Imperial Villa, Hayama, Kanagawa, Empire of Japan
Burial8 February 1927
(m. 1900)
Era name and dates
Taishō: 30 July 1912 – 25 December 1926
Posthumous name
Emperor Taishō (大正天皇)
HouseImperial House of Japan
FatherEmperor Meiji
MotherYanagiwara Naruko
SignatureTaisho shomei-svgver.svg

Emperor Taishō (大正天皇, Taishō-tennō, 31 August 1879 – 25 December 1926), also known by his personal name Yoshihito (嘉仁), was the 123rd Emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession, and the second ruler of the Empire of Japan from 30 July 1912 until his death in 1926.

According to Japanese custom, while reigning the Emperor is simply called "the Emperor". After death, he is known by a posthumous name, which is the name of the era coinciding with his reign. Having ruled during the Taishō era, he is known as the "Emperor Taishō".

Early life[edit]

Prince Yoshihito was born at the Tōgū Palace in Akasaka, Tokyo to Emperor Meiji and Yanagiwara Naruko, a concubine with the official title of gon-no-tenji (imperial concubine). As was common practice at the time, Emperor Meiji's consort, Empress Shōken, was officially regarded as his mother. He received the personal name of Yoshihito Shinnō and the title Haru-no-miya from the Emperor on 6 September 1879. His two older siblings had died in infancy, and he too was born sickly.[1]

Prince Yoshihito contracted cerebral meningitis within three weeks of his birth.[2]

As was the practice at the time, Prince Yoshihito was entrusted to the care of his great-grandfather, Marquess Nakayama Tadayasu, in whose house he lived from infancy until the age of seven. Prince Nakayama had also raised his grandson, Emperor Meiji, as a child.[3]

From March 1885, Prince Yoshihito moved to the Aoyama Detached Palace, where he was tutored in the mornings on reading, writing, arithmetic, and morals, and in the afternoons on sports, but progress was slow due to his poor health and frequent fevers.[4] From 1886, he was taught together with 15–20 selected classmates from the ōke and higher ranking kazoku peerage at a special school, the Gogakumonsho, within the Aoyama Palace.[4]

Yoshihito was officially declared heir on 31 August 1887, and had his formal investiture as crown prince on 3 November 1888. While crown prince, he was often referred to simply as Tōgu (東宮) (Or 'Eastern Palace', a metonymy for heir to the throne originated from China's Han dynasty).

Crown Prince Tōgu with his father and mother strolling in Asukayama Park accompanied by ladies of the court. Colour woodblock print by Yōshū Chikanobu, 1890

Education and training[edit]

When Yoshihito became the age to enter elementary school in 1886, due to his health problems, Takehiko Yumoto was appointed as the special education officer to educate him within the Tōgū Palace.[5] For these health reasons, he spent much of his youth at the Imperial villas at Hayama and Numazu, both of which are located at the sea. Although the prince showed skill in some areas, such as horse riding, he proved to be poor in areas requiring higher-level thought.[citation needed] He was finally withdrawn from Gakushuin before finishing the middle school course in 1894. However, he did appear to have an aptitude for languages and continued to receive extensive tutoring in French, Chinese, and history from private tutors at the Akasaka Palace;[citation needed] Emperor Meiji gave Prince Takehito responsibility for taking care of Prince Yoshihito, and the two princes became friends.

From 1898, largely at the insistence of Itō Hirobumi, the Prince began to attend sessions of the House of Peers of the Diet of Japan as a way of learning about the political and military concerns of the country. In the same year, he gave his first official receptions to foreign diplomats, with whom he was able to shake hands and converse graciously.[6] His infatuation with western culture and tendency to sprinkle French words into his conversations was a source of irritation for Emperor Meiji.[7]

In October 1898, the Prince also traveled from the Numazu Imperial Villa to Kobe, Hiroshima, and Etajima, visiting sites connected with the Imperial Japanese Navy. He made another tour in 1899 to Kyūshū, visiting government offices, schools and factories (such as Yawata Iron and Steel in Fukuoka and the Mitsubishi shipyards in Nagasaki).[8]


Emperor Taishō's four sons in 1921: Hirohito, Takahito, Nobuhito and Yasuhito

On 10 May 1900, Crown Prince Yoshihito married the then 15-year-old Kujō Sadako, daughter of Prince Kujō Michitaka, the head of the five senior branches of the Fujiwara clan. She had been carefully selected by Emperor Meiji for her intelligence, articulation, and pleasant disposition and dignity – to complement Prince Yoshihito in the areas where he was lacking.[2] The Akasaka Palace was constructed from 1899 to 1909 in a lavish European rococo style, to serve as the Crown Prince's official residence. The Prince and Princess had the following children: Hirohito, Yasuhito, Nobuhito, Takahito

In 1902, Yoshihito continued his tours to observe the customs and geography of Japan, this time of central Honshū, where he visited the noted Buddhist temple of Zenkō-ji in Nagano.[9] With tensions rising between Japan and Russia, Yoshihito was promoted in 1903 to the rank of colonel in the Imperial Japanese Army and captain in the Imperial Japanese Navy. His military duties were only ceremonial, but he traveled to inspect military facilities in Wakayama, Ehime, Kagawa and Okayama that year.[10]

In October 1907, the Crown Prince toured Korea, accompanied by Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō, General Katsura Tarō,[citation needed] and Prince Arisugawa Taruhito. It was the first time an heir apparent to the throne had ever left Japan.[11] During this period, he began studying the Korean language, although he never became proficient at it.[citation needed]


Emperor Taishō and Empress Teimei had four sons and twelve grandchildren (five grandsons and seven granddaughters).

Name Birth Death Marriage Their children
Date Spouse
Hirohito, Emperor Shōwa
(Hirohito, Prince Michi)
29 April 1901 7 January 1989 26 January 1924 Princess Nagako of Kuni
Yasuhito, Prince Chichibu
(Yasuhito, Prince Atsu)
25 June 1902 4 January 1953 28 September 1928 Setsuko Matsudaira none
Nobuhito, Prince Takamatsu
(Nobuhito, Prince Teru)
3 January 1905 3 February 1987 4 February 1930 Kikuko Tokugawa none
Takahito, Prince Mikasa
(Takahito, Prince Sumi)
2 December 1915 27 October 2016 22 October 1941 Yuriko Takagi

As emperor[edit]

Emperor Taisho in 1912
Emperor Taishō on his way to the opening ceremony of the Imperial Diet in 1917, during World War I

On 30 July 1912, upon the death of his father, Emperor Meiji, Prince Yoshihito ascended the throne. The new emperor was kept out of view of the public as much as possible, having suffered from various neurological problems. At the 1913 opening of the Imperial Diet of Japan, one of the rare occasions he was seen in public, he is famously reported to have rolled his prepared speech into a cylinder and stared at the assembly through it, as if through a spyglass.[12] Although rumors attributed this to poor mental condition, others, including those who knew him well, believed that he may have been checking to make sure the speech was rolled up properly, as his manual dexterity was also handicapped.[13]

His lack of articulation and charisma, his disabilities and his eccentricities, led to an increase in incidents of lèse majesté. As his condition deteriorated, he had less and less interest in daily political affairs, and the ability of the genrō, Keeper of the Privy Seal, and Imperial Household Minister to manipulate his decisions came to be a matter of common knowledge.[14] The two-party political system that had been developing in Japan since the turn of the century came of age after World War I, giving rise to the nickname for the period, "Taishō Democracy", prompting a shift in political power to the Imperial Diet of Japan and the democratic parties.[15]

After 1918, the emperor no longer was able to attend Army or Navy maneuvers, appear at the graduation ceremonies of the military academies, perform the annual Shinto ritual ceremonies, or even attend the official opening of sessions of the Diet of Japan.[16]

After 1919, he undertook no official duties, and Crown Prince Hirohito was named prince regent (sesshō) on 25 November 1921.[17]

The emperor's reclusive life was unaffected by the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 and Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923. Fortuitously, he had moved by imperial train to Tamozawa Imperial Villa at Nikko the week before the devastating calamity; but his son, Crown Prince Hirohito, remained at the Imperial Palace where he was at the heart of the event.[18] Carrier pigeons kept the Emperor informed as information about the extent of the devastation became known.[19]


Funeral of Emperor Taisho in Tokyo

In early December 1926, it was announced that the emperor had pneumonia. He died of a heart attack at 1:25 a.m. in the early morning of December 25, 1926, at the Hayama Imperial Villa at Hayama, on Sagami Bay south of Tokyo (in Kanagawa Prefecture).[20] He was 47 years old and succeeded by his eldest son, Hirohito, Emperor Shōwa.

The funeral was held at night (February 7 to February 8, 1927) and consisted of a 4-mile-long procession in which 20,000 mourners followed a herd of sacred bulls and an ox-drawn cart containing the imperial coffin. The funeral route was lit with wood fires in iron lanterns. The emperor's coffin was then transported to his mausoleum in the western suburbs of Tokyo.[21]

Emperor Taishō has been called the first Tokyo Emperor because he was the first to live his entire life in or near Tokyo. His father was born and reared in Kyoto; and although he later lived and died in Tokyo, Emperor Meiji's mausoleum is located on the outskirts of Kyoto, near the tombs of his imperial forebears; but Emperor Taishō's grave is in Tokyo, in the Musashi Imperial Graveyard in Hachiōji.[22] His wife and his son, the Emperor Shōwa, are buried near him.


National honours[edit]

Emperor Taishō in the robes of the Order of the Garter

Foreign honours[edit]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Keene, Emperor of Japan:Meiji and His World. page 320-321.
  2. ^ a b Bix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan. Page 22
  3. ^ Donald Calman, Nature and Origins of Japanese Imperialism (2013), pp. 92–93
  4. ^ a b Keene, Emperor of Japan:Meiji and His World. page 397-398.
  5. ^ Takeshi Hara (2015) [2000]. 大正天皇 [Emperor Taishō] (in Japanese). Asahi Shimbun Publications. p. 49. ISBN 978-4-02-261827-6.
  6. ^ Keene, Emperor of Japan:Meiji and His World. page 547.
  7. ^ Keene, Emperor of Japan:Meiji and His World. page 552.
  8. ^ Keene, Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World. page 554.
  9. ^ Keene, Emperor of Japan:Meiji and His World. page 581.
  10. ^ Keene, Emperor of Japan:Meiji and His World. page 599.
  11. ^ Keene, Emperor of Japan:Meiji and His World. page 652.
  12. ^ See Asahi Shimbun, March 14, 2011, among many other reports.
  13. ^ Nagataka Kuroda. "Higeki no Teiou - Taisho Tennou". Bungeishunjū, February 1959
  14. ^ Bix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan. Page 129
  15. ^ Hoffman, Michael (July 29, 2012), "The Taisho Era: When modernity ruled Japan's masses", Japan Times, p. 7, archived from the original on November 2, 2012, retrieved December 1, 2017
  16. ^ Bix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan. Page 53
  17. ^ Bix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan. Page 123
  18. ^ Hammer, Joshua. (2006). Yokohama Burning, p. 44.
  19. ^ Hammer, p. 194; citing "Carrier Pigeons Take News of Disaster:Wing Their Way from the Flaming City," Japan Times & Mail (Earthquake Edition). 6 September 1923, p. 1.
  20. ^ Seidensticker, Edward. (1990). Tokyo Rising, p. 18.
  21. ^ Ronald E. Yates, World Leaders Bid Hirohito Farewell, Chicago T, February 24, 1989 (online), accessed 13 Oct 2015
  22. ^ Seidensticker, p. 20.
  23. ^ "官報. 1889年11月03日 - 国立国会図書館デジタルコレクション".
  24. ^ "官報. 1900年05月10日 - 国立国会図書館デジタルコレクション".
  25. ^ "官報. 1906年12月30日 - 国立国会図書館デジタルコレクション".
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h 刑部芳則 (2017). 明治時代の勲章外交儀礼 (PDF) (in Japanese). 明治聖徳記念学会紀要. p. 152.
  27. ^ "Liste des Membres de l'Ordre de Léopold", Almanach Royale Belgique (in French), Bruxelles, 1899, p. 72 – via hathitrust.org
  28. ^ Jørgen Pedersen (2009). Riddere af Elefantordenen, 1559–2009 (in Danish). Syddansk Universitetsforlag. p. 466. ISBN 978-87-7674-434-2.
  29. ^ Italy. Ministero dell'interno (1920). Calendario generale del regno d'Italia. p. 57.
  30. ^ "Den kongelige norske Sanct Olavs Orden", Norges Statskalender for Aaret 1926 (in Norwegian), Oslo: Forlagt av H. Aschehoug & Co. (w. Nygaard), 1926, pp. 993–994 – via runeberg.org
  31. ^ Royal Thai Government Gazette (9 December 1900). "ข้อความในใบบอกพระยาฤทธิรงค์รณเฉท อรรคราชทูตสยามกรุงญี่ปุ่น เรื่อง พระราชทานเครื่องราชอิศริยาภรณ์ มหาจักรีบรมราชวงษ์แก่มกุฎราชกุมาร กรุงญี่ปุ่น" (PDF) (in Thai). Archived from the original (PDF) on May 8, 2019. Retrieved 2019-05-08. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  32. ^ "Caballeros de la insigne orden del toisón de oro". Guía Oficial de España (in Spanish). 1911. p. 160. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  33. ^ Sveriges Statskalender (in Swedish), 1909, p. 613, retrieved 2018-01-06 – via runeberg.org
  34. ^ "List of the Knights of the Garter=François Velde, Heraldica.org". Retrieved February 22, 2019.


External links[edit]

Emperor Taishō
Born: 31 August 1879 Died: 25 December 1926
Regnal titles
Preceded by Emperor of Japan
30 July 1912 – 25 December 1926
Succeeded by